DENVER – One of the brightest parts of the Wild’s impressive victory Thursday in Nashville was the fact that Erik Haula, in coach Mike Yeo’s doghouse for much of the season, scored a goal, had an assist, had four shots, won four of six faceoffs and was solid on two penalty kills.
“I told him this morning that that’s the closest to last year in the playoffs that we’ve seen him play,” Yeo said before the Wild’s 3-1 victory at Colorado on Saturday, in which Haula scored his team’s first goal, added an assist and was a plus-2.
Yeo was so pleased with how Haula was buzzing every shift, he had assistant coach Darryl Sydor watch each one of Haula’s shifts over with the young forward Saturday.
“I just want him to see why he was successful in the game,” Yeo said. “Success just doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not a game of chance. It’s how you work, how you work to create, especially for a guy like that.”
Yeo wants Haula to threaten more with his speed, and not only in open-ice situations, but using his speed to pressure, hound pucks and track back into his own zone. After Haula made a crucial mistake on Edmonton’s winning goal Tuesday, Yeo met with him, and the coach liked how Haula regrouped and got focused for the game against the Predators.
Haula, who has seven goals and five assists in 55 games, said it was a “try to learn from your mistake kind of conversation, and any time you make a mistake, you want to redeem yourself. I’ve just got to keep consistent and try to get to that level because I know where I can play. I showed it last year. I just have to get that consistency of doing it night after night. It’s been one of my struggles this year.”
The toast of Switzerland
Nino Niederreiter is proud to become the first Swiss player in NHL history to top 20 goals.
“A lot of people have congratulated me back home,” Niederreiter said.
The previous Swiss record was former Islanders defenseman Mark Streit scoring 16 in 2008-09.
“At the beginning of the season, my goal was to definitely reach that,” Niederreiter said. “Sometimes when you get close to a milestone, it’s tough to get it because you think about it so much. I’m glad I got it quickly.”
Niederreiter was asked if the next milestone is 30 goals: “Twenty-five first, but at the end of the day, I want to score as many goals as possible and go from there.”
Following Roy’s lead
In Nashville, coach Peter Laviolette pulled goalie Pekka Rinne with three minutes left for an extra attacker down by a goal to the Wild. Avalanche coach Patrick Roy started this now-leaguewide trend last year.
“He definitely deserves credit for it. We probably deserve a little credit for it, too,” Yeo said, laughing — a self-deprecating joke about the Wild giving up goals to Colorado twice in last year’s playoffs with goalie Semyon Varlamov on the bench.
“[Roy’s] changed the game. They’ve had great success [doing it with so much time left],” Yeo said.
The Avs have scored six times with an extra attacker this season, and Yeo said even the Wild now tries to pull its goalie with two minutes left when previously it would be a minute.
“It makes sense. Why wait to the very end if you need a goal?” Yeo said.
• Left winger Stephane Veilleux cleared waivers but stayed on the roster and was scratched for a second consecutive game. If the Wild needs a roster spot because of a waiver claim or trade before Monday’s 2 p.m. deadline, it will now be able to assign Veilleux to AHL Iowa.
• The Wild might be in the market for a left-shot defenseman to add depth. Two placed on waivers Saturday were Chicago’s Tim Erixon (a former first-round draft pick) and Dallas’ Dave Schlemko.
• Defenseman Jared Spurgeon (concussion), who has missed five games, began working out Saturday.